BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION ERIC CLAPTON REAFFIRMATION
THE GLORIOUS CORNER
Story By: G.H. Harding
“SLOWHAND” AT MSG --- It was billed as the 70th Birthday Celebration for Eric Clapton - who actually turned 70 last month, but it was more a reaffirmation of Clapton as one of rock’s premier guitarists ever. I have seen Clapton a half-dozen times since the ’70s, and have usually found that even a lower-than-average show from him is still a damn good show. I hadn't seen him for nearly a decade when I saw him play 8 years back at Citi Field with Elton John. Clapton was great, but John was even better. The two came out and did four songs together, which I felt were the best moments. I knew at the time that this was a show that was going to be hard to beat.
The fellow sitting next to me was at the first “Birthday” show on Friday night, and said it was great. That’s the thing about Clapton fans . . . they're committed, brutally honest, and will go to see more than one show at a time during a run.
Of late, Clapton has toured with one of his best bands ever: Nathan East on bass; Steve Gadd on drums; and pianist Chris Stainton, who remains, without a doubt, the band’s secret weapon and has been with Clapton for over 40 years (!).
With the reports from Friday’s performance described as mostly stunning, the set list this night stayed fairly the same throughout the evening. A totally re-worked “I Shot the Sheriff” was downright astounding, with a captivating solo that showed Clapton playing better than ever. The Blind Faith chestnut “Can’t Find My Way Home” with East on vocals was also a remarkable gift to hear after all these years!
Keyboard wizard Paul Carrack (Ace) sang a terrific version of the song made most famous by the late English soul singer Joe Cocker, “You Are So Beautiful,” with Eric on an especially wailing (or was it a gently weeping?) guitar solo. The passionate performance of this gem washed over the sold-out audience like a luscious waterfall of sound.
Guest performer John Mayer dazzled on Clapton’s “Pretending,” and Jimmie Vaughan—one-time lead guitarist of The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and brother of the late great Stevie Ray—was absolutely amazing on “Before You Accuse Me.” Truth be told, I was never a huge fan of the Vaughan brothers per se though I respected their musicianship. At this show, however, Jimmie took everyone far past the music and high into the “strat”-osphere (as in “Stratocaster”).
Doyle Bramhall and Derek Trucks (The Allman Brothers) came on for a rendition of “Let It Rain,” from Clapton’s debut solo album in August 1970. Honestly, it felt a bit thin to me. I loved the recorded song, produced by Delaney Bramlett at that time—but it didn't make it for me at this show that night.
The encore was a stirring version of “High Time We Went,” written by Joe Cocker and Stainton back in 1972. It’s a great song about the potential perils of being out late; something all of us could relate to back then. All the guests took solos, and it was a real high point of the evening.
With reports of Clapton slowing down his touring schedule, this could be the last time I see him. But if it is the last Clapton show I see live, then this was a perfectly rewarding way to preserve my memory of this giant in the history of rock and blues guitar performance.
Fully Assembled ---Avengers: Age of Ultron dominated the global box office this weekend, picking up an estimated $187 million in domestic sales alone. $168 million in foreign ticket sales.
The comic book adventure’s worldwide take now tops off at $626.7 million after 12 days in theaters. The movie opened last week in select key international territories, in advance of its domestic debut on May 1.
Among the assorted records it has torched so far, the film has posted the biggest opening weekend of all time in Brazil, Mexico, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Ecuador. Last weekend, the picture also scored the highest global haul for an Imax release, with $25 million in receipts.
Avengers: Age of Ultron has now opened in 71% of the global marketplace, but several key territories remain.
The success of this Avengers reunion film, along with the Kenneth Branagh-directed live-action Cinderella, has now pushed Disney past the $1 billion mark internationally.
Meanwhile, the movie I really want to see this summer (and also from Disney) is Tomorrowland (George Clooney), which is set to stage a terrific debut this coming Saturday in L. A. We'll see . . .
Creedence Re-visited --- John Fogerty, on Letterman last week, performed back-to-back CCR faves “Travelin’ Band,” “Proud Mary,” and “Fortunate Son” . . . and was spot-on excellent! With a band that now features his son on guitar (not unlike what Eddie Van Halen has set up with his son, Wolfie, on bass in the VH lineup) and also the powerful Kenny Aronoff on drums. It was a killer performance. Fogerty has a memoir coming out in the fall titled Fortunate Son (Little, Brown and Co.), and it should be quite the read. One of the all-time great rock ’n roll originals, for sure.
CLOSING NOTES --- Speaking of Letterman, these last few weeks of his Late Night—with guests like Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, and Michael Keaton—have been totally excellent. One night had John Mayer performing “American Pie” with Paul Shaffer and the Late Night band . . . and it was stellar. His show with Keaton last week was one of the best installments I have ever seen. More on him next week, but I'm going to miss him and the show big time . . . if you feel the same, then tune in to CBS this evening at 9:30pm for David Letterman: A Life on Television, hosted by Ray Romano (whose still-popular-in-reruns sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond, came to exist through Letterman’s own TV and film production company, Worldwide Pants).
Screening of Jack Black and James Marden’s The D Train this week; Micky Dolenz will be there along with the cast . . .
RIP: Grace Lee Whiteny (Yeoman Janice Rand) from Star Trek.